President Biden on Tuesday indicated he had decided on how to respond after three U.S. soldiers were killed in a drone attack that his administration has blamed on Iran-backed militia groups.
Speaking to reporters at the White House before leaving for a campaign event in Florida, the president said “yes,” when asked if he had decided on a response, though did not offer any details.
The president said he held Iran responsible because they had supplied the weapons to the people who perpetrated the attack, but qualified that he did not wish to escalate tensions with the Islamic Republic.
“I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East,” he said. “That’s not what I’m looking for.”
DOD CASTS DOUBT ON IRAN-BACKED MILITIA’S CLAIM TO HALT STRIKES ON US TROOPS: ‘ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS’
U.S. officials said they are still determining which of several Iran-backed groups was responsible for the first killing of American troops in a wave of attacks against U.S. forces in the region since the Oct. 7 Hamas assault on Israel.
It was not immediately clear whether Biden meant he had decided on a specific retaliatory plan. Other administration officials have offered few details on any such response.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters traveling with Biden aboard Air Force One that he would not preview the U.S. response, but indicated it would come in phases.
“It’s very possible that what you’ll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action, but potentially multiple actions over a period of time,” he said.
PENTAGON SAYS ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR ISN’T SPREADING DESPITE US SOLDIERS KILLED IN JORDAN, RED SEA ATTACKS
The Pentagon identified those killed in the attack as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia; Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia. The Army Reserve announced on Tuesday that it had posthumously promoted Sanders and Moffett to the rank of sergeant.
There have been a total of 166 attacks on U.S. military installations since Oct. 18, including 67 in Iraq, 98 in Syria and now one in Jordan, a U.S. military official said.
Meanwhile, Houthi militants based in Yemen have been firing upon commercial vessels in the Red Sea, prompting retaliatory strikes from the U.S. and its allies.
On Tuesday, Al-Asad Air Base in Western Iraq was targeted again by a single rocket, but there was no damage and no injuries in that attack, a U.S. military official said.
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The three soldiers killed in the Jordan strike were the first U.S. military fatalities in the Middle East from enemy fire since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out. One contractor has also died as the result of a heart attack after a strike on Al-Asad in December. Two U.S. Navy SEALs went missing and have been declared dead from a mission in the Red Sea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.